WHALE'S BED

digital photography

C-type print on Hahnemühle Photo Pearl 310

80 x 120 cm each

2015 - 2020

This series draws upon the tricky relationship between image and text, the role of photography as a reference to time, and as a means to chronicle events.  It also questions the contemporary agenda for development.

Whale’s Bed (‘Cama de Baleia’) arises from a reflection I had while listening to the testimonials of those who had been evicted for hydropower schemes to take place. Every time a hydroelectric plant is to be installed on a site, a local compulsory migration is triggered. As the area upstream the damming site is flooded, a large lake is formed: the reservoir. Then, people who live in this area are forced to part with their homes and their communities to make room for this new lake-like environment that comprises a vital part of the hydroelectric power station. As the protagonists of this story (those affected by these hydro works) describe to me their places of living, their relationship with the latter as well as the feelings of violation, loss and death about having to empty their homes and leave behind a sight that would no longer be revisited (since the water would submerge the entire area), I observe the interiors of their homes. Those physical and visible spaces exude the invisible: family histories, personal histories, tastes, livelihood, identity. Like museums of our own life, our houses can take visitors through a visual journey about who we are and how we live. Homes are places of intimacy, comfort and also a canvas on which the inhabitants can express themselves. ‘How devastating can it be to witness these places vanish?’. This thought drove me to photograph these peoples’ spaces. Some of them would in fact vanish as the Garabi-Panambi Hydro Complex was installed, other photographs are rather the houses rebuilt on other locations, their owners having already been evicted and their original homes gone by the time I arrived in the region. Upon displaying these images, however, I want to assure no distinction is made between the ones that are rebuilt and those that are still threatened, so that the tension concerning their chances of disappearance permeates all of them. Working closely with the approach of creating an inventory, emulating somehow the aesthetics that documentary photographers have traditionally employed when capturing human landscapes that are prone to change (such as houses and facades of commercial establishments in war zones, to denounce the catastrophe and /or to safeguard the ‘memories’ of those environments), I gather visual  (and invisible) testimonies of what is annihilated by hydropower dams.

© Marilene Ribeiro. All rights reserved.